Prime Edition

Parkinson’s antiquated gaze on show
NIDHI GUPTA  22nd Jan 2012

Floating with flowers by Norman Parkinson

n November 1956, fashion photographer Norman Parkinson's photo spread, shot in India, appeared in British Vogue. Dreamy images of models in what we today call 'vintage couture', with one reclining on a boat in the middle of a lotus-speckled lake in Kashmir or standing next to a dark-complexioned Indian girl with her hands folded in namaste in another, for instance, were meant to capture the essence of an 'exotic' and 'mystic' India. Harper's Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland reportedly commented, "How clever of you, Mr Parkinson, also to know that pink is the navy blue of India..."

She was referring to the splurge of colour in his pictures, which was quite a novelty in an age where fashion photography was largely made up of mundane studio shots in monochrome, dominated by a palette of blue or black. This was considered Parkinson's greatest contributions to the field – an infusion of colour and naturalism into a world of wooden poise.

Fifty-six years later, Tasveer is hosting an exhibition comprising 28 of Parkinson's most remarkable works, of which 15 were taken in India. Titled 'Pink is the Navy Blue of India', the show has been curated by Nathaniel Gaskell, Shalini Gupta and Abhishek Poddar.

The idea of India that Parkinson essayed in his pictures seems to adhere to a dominant Western gaze that looked at the country through a prism of stereotypes. After all, can there be bigger clichés than a snake charmer or the Taj Mahal, which Parkinson has used as backdrops? Gupta clarifies: "Parkinson's commission from Vogue was to click the models in never-seen-before locations and his aim was to make them pretty. He has only tried to infuse a bit of Indianness into these pictures."

{
Parkinson’s greatest contributions to the field fashion photography was an infusion of colour and naturalism into a world of wooden poise.

Gaskell concedes that there may have been an underlying stereotypical notion of India that Parkinson re-projects, but he says this wasn't on purpose. "It was after India got its Independence that Parkinson came here. Sure, there was a certain way the West looked at this country even then, but his idea was not to make political comments. He was just playing around with what people associated with India back then," he states.

Fashion photographer Atul Kasbekar places Parkinson among the greats, almost at par with the American photographer Richard Avedon. "It may be stereotypical now, but if you look at the era when he took those pictures, what he did was pioneering work. Also, one has to appreciate the humour behind them," he points out.

The Pillars of Quwwat-Ul-Islam Mosque at dusk by Norman Parkinson

So why exhibit these pictures in India now? "We see a growing interest in photography in India and we thought we could give people access to a world-famous artist in this arena," Gaskell says. Purely in the realm of capturing beauty, Parkinson's pictures harbour an energy and dynamism that is at par with modern-day fashion photography, according to Gupta.

This exhibition, then, must be seen simply for its retro-magnificence, not through the lens of any political underpinnings.

'Pink is the Navy Blue of India' is on till 31 January, between 11 am and 7 pm, at The Stainless Gallery, New Delhi.

 
iTv Network : newsX India News Media Academy aaj Samaaj  
  Powered by : Star Infranet